Made in Margate

This is a piece I wrote for new craft magazine MADE.

Zoe and some pieces of her work

Zoe and some pieces of her work

It is not uncommon for designer Zoe Murphy to stay up working for 48 hours straight. In fact, the self-confessed workaholic barely has time to recognise the nationwide critical acclaim her uniquely captivating pieces of furniture have already started receiving.

Since the 22-year-old graduated from university last year her furniture design business has gone into overdrive, with spreads appearing in the national press – Grazia and The Observer to name but two – and orders coming in from as far flung as Bulgaria and Beirut.

But with her feet firmly on the ground, Zoe is quick to dismiss such high praises, “It’s hard to put into words,” she begins modestly, “but I just can’t appreciate all the attention fully because it’s almost like all this is a dream. I work so incredibly hard I hope I deserve the attention I get, but it just seems to pass me by in a flurry of hard work – does that make sense?”

Take a look at Zoe’s pieces and it’s easy to see why the young designer is becoming such a hit. Her designs are bright, kooky and – as Zoe is keen to point out – ethically sound. “I trawl flea markets and car-boot sales to find abandoned pieces of furniture I can revive. All my pieces are recycled, the environment is something I feel very strongly about.”
This ethical awareness is something Zoe feels has greatly influenced the level of media attraction she receives, “My work ticks all the boxes – it’s colourful, quirky and very ethical. The press seem to really like that.”

It’s personal

What also gives her work a particular uniqueness is the very personal edge Zoe devotes to all her furniture. “My work is inspired by my home town of Margate – which I absolutely adore. Most people who come here think it’s a bit grimy and run down but I just love it.”
She admits the run down seaside resort is well past its prime but insists this adds to its charm. “It’s quite amusing really. There’s a really ugly apartment block on the seafront which everyone here hates but I feature it in a lot of my work. So many people comment on how funky the pattern looks – little do they know!”

Zoe relies on a series of specialist techniques to produce her furniture the most frequent of which is screen printing – something she became expert at while studying at university. “Screen printing works really well on flat surfaces – which makes it ideal for all my tables and chairs. I also work with fabric dye a lot. I recently made a footstool out of dyed silk from wedding dresses.”

And what certainly cannot be overlooked is Zoe’s acute attention to detail. From the original hint of an idea, to the delivery. “I deliver many of my pieces to clients by hand,” she explains, “I’ll hire a van and drive it to people myself.” To many this might seem a tad over laborious, but for Zoe it is a chance to see her work come alive. “I love delivering the pieces to clients. I might not always have time to do so but while I can I’ll enjoy it.”

The design starlet admits starting the business so soon after university hasn’t been easy, “I have had to overcome a few skill-related problems. I am not a carpenter so remodelling wood furniture has proved difficult – but that’s half the fun of it, right?!”

What Zoe may lack in woodworking skill she can certainly make up for in utter determination to succeed, “I have worked incredibly hard for everything I have achieved so far. But it’s paid off – I can honestly say I am doing my dream job.” A dream job which has already got the design world begging at her feet.


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